1 Wicked Gallery
Saturday, Nov. 6th, 7 p.m.
511 Castle Street
Years ago, Fayetteville native Christina Cole was visiting a local art gallery. After a few minutes, she found herself sitting horrified as she watched an artist talk someone out of buying another artist’s work. This particular brand of artist was of the toxic variety, just self-satisfied enough to tell others what was and what wasn’t art. After what felt like hours of listening to this peacock talk up his own work and talk others’ work down, Cole was inspired to begin a colony for exactly the type of artists being tongue-lashed in that gallery.
“It was the same old brutal thing,” she remembers. “He kept saying that photography is not art, graffiti is not art, that he can do this better—blah, blah, blah. As his voice boomed through the room and in my head, it just dawned on me: Why was I sitting there listening to that ridiculous banter?”
In her own words, she “got off her ass” and got to work on a whole new kind of creative family. “I am not about stroking egos,” Cole says. “I am about being supportive of each other. We need to help each other, grow with one another, and pretty much do anything to get something going. A positive environment was warranted, so I reached out and made one.”
The Feral Art Collective was born that day. It began with three artists and grew to more than 30. For years, the group migrated to galleries, museums, festivals and the like to get neglected work its time in the proverbial spotlight. Despite the heavy task of traveling with dozens of artists’ work, Cole knew it was important to stay together in a realm of support. She says she was just playing the pack-mentality game that she watched the Fayetteville small-town art scene play for years.
“It was literally pain-staking to get someone to even look your way if you weren’t in a social circle, painting dogwoods and cardinal watercolors and schmoozing with folks on the hill,” she says. “So, [we] came about to make things happen for ourselves, to push our own limits, to put the work in the faces of people who wouldn’t normally have it and at least make a way for us to show, one way or another.”
Eventually, Cole went in search of a permanent home for her collection of avant-garde artists. She found the perfect place among the antique and arts district on Castle Street. Thus, quickly she set to work re-creating the “feral feeling,” which she characterizes as dark, brooding and just a little bit twisted.
“The art doesn’t necessarily have to ‘be’ a certain way,” Cole explains. “I mean, we wouldn’t want to contribute to reverse snobbery!”
Laughing, she continues with a cautious honesty. “We just prefer dark work: macabre, Southern Gothic, religious or anti-religious, Eros, or folk. You know, things of the odd and natural curiosities. Things that make you think!”
Since she began the group as a way for alternative artists to get exposure, she refuses to only accept work on those terms. “Don’t get me wrong, we will carry things that aren’t so our ideal, but they usually have something different about them.”
Her all-inclusive mindset was welcomed with open arms into the neighborhood. Cole says she has found a new family among businesses like Maggy’s, Michael Moore Antiques and Projekte, where a warm and inviting atmosphere awaited the new gallery.
“The people on this street were the ink on the paper for me,” she says. “There is not a better interesting, eclectic and artsy area or better group of people! It’s really the up-and-coming of Wilmington, especially if you want to be in your own artful world!”
Staying with the macabre theme of the collective, Cole and friends are preparing for their introductory show, to center around the body and all its squirmy glory. “Anatomy” will be the cohesive element among the 30 varying creators—and Cole says not to expect anything else in common. Also a part of the show are the artists from Thrive Studios and Hypersonic’s Own Mastermind Randy spinning music for the opening.
After months of decorating, planning and rounding up her family of misfit geniuses, Cole has produced a new haven for the dark-minded creative souls in Wilmington (of which, she has discovered, there are many more than she thought). She has appropriately named the space “1 Wicked Gallery.”
“It has a stage, a courtyard, a rack of scissors,” she says, “and, apparently, a twisted sense of humor.”